Friday, 27 September 2013

Halloween on a budget with Aldi

Once the end of the summer arrives I'm always looking to the next thing to celebrate and have fun with, because as the nights start to draw in, things can feel a bit gloomy. So as we move through September, my thoughts always turn to Halloween and Bonfire Night, both wonderfully fun times of the year. It's a great excuse to dress up and decorate the house, we've taken to carving pumpkins every year now and I think we might do a few fun Halloween games this year too.

Isla was sent a brilliant dress for Halloween from Aldi. Blood red with lots of bats on the netting, and it was accompanied by a bat necklace, which she loved. In order to make our dress up session all the more authentic I decided to crack open the Snazaroo face paints that I bought well over a year ago and get brave and give her a spooky face to go with the fiendish costume. I don't think it was too bad an effort actually! Noah got in on the act too with his Jake and the Neverland pirates costume! They both love an excuse to dress up and they stayed like this all day! 

It really is worth checking out Aldi if you need to pick up some Halloween costumes or decorations for a party. The prices are so reasonable, probably so much so that they will fly off the shelves, so I'd get there quick if I were you. Noah has a Halloween tea party at nursery, so I will definitely be popping along to see if i can pick up something for him; with the kids outfits starting from £3.99 you can't really go wrong. 

We were sent the outfit Isla is wearing and a couple of accessories that I will be showing in another post soon. All words and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Cousins Day Out at Chessington World of Adventures

The week before school started I decided to make use of the last few days of freedom and take Isla to Chessington World of Adventures for the day. We'd been given 4 tickets to the theme park and we went with my sister and Cousin M. The girls love hanging out together and it gave me and my sister a chance to catch up too! The beauty of going to a theme park when most of the kids are at school is that it's very quiet and you get to go on all the rides you want to and see all the animals too! We didn't do that well with the weather, it rained a fair bit but it didn't spoil our fun.

When we got there we took a good look round the animals that are closest to the entry gates. Most impressive were the gorillas and tigers.

Next we decided to go on a couple of rides and the great thing about Chessington is that it does have plenty for 3-4 year olds as long as they're accompanied by an adult. We braved the little pirate ships and then took it easier on the carousel. I was keen too avoid a repeat of the Cranky episode at Thomasland a few weeks back!

Following that we went on Professor Burps Bubbleworks, a ride I remember from new when I used to work at Chessington many moons ago in my summer breaks from University! Unfortunately it broke down while we were on it and Isla did seem a little bit spooked by the fantasy nature of the ride. Cousin M liked it though.

After lunch we caught the Madagascar Live show, which was great! It's an outdoor theatre and the rain held off long enough for us to see the show, I think it lasted half an hour, and then we ran for cover! Isla was dancing along and was desperate to be picked to go up on stage to do limbo! She got over that disappointment quickly though and carried on jumping around!

As it was raining pretty heavily we made our way to Tomb Blaster which is an indoor ride. However Isla decided it was a scary one without even going on it so Cousin M and my sister went on without us and said it was good.

The rain had stopped again so we went to Zufari, a brilliant new Safari-esque adventure! I didn't realise what we were getting into before we entered Zufari, so when we got in the truck and set off on our bumpy 'safari' ride I hadn't realised we were going to get close to the animals. I have a real soft spot for Giraffes and it was so cool getting near them. The girls really liked the Giraffes and pinched their noses together when close to the Rhinos' - boy they ponged! The terrain was really rough and it did feel like off roading, we liked that a lot. In conjunction with the new Zufari ride, Chessington has now employed a 'Birds and the Bees' consultant. She'll be there to explain to the children about animal baby making, which is quite handy indeed when you're a parent like me that gets a bit lost for words when caught on the hop with some of the questions that Isla asks! Isla and Cousin M really enjoyed this whole experience. The only thing I would say is make sure you check the height of your child on entry to Zufari, as there is a minimum height requirement and we did see a little girl turned away, so check to avoid disappointment.

We finished up by watching the end of the penguin feeding presentation (really interesting!) and then a ride on the flying elephants, the jungle bouncers and a couple of goes on Toadie's Crazy Cars in the pouring rain. 

All in all, we had a really great day out. The rain didn't dampen our spirits, we just donned our waterproofs every now and then and took cover when we needed to. We had two very happy and worn out little girls by the end of the day.

We were given 4 tickets to Chessington free of charge. All words and opinions are my own. Thanks for a really great day!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Race for Life Early Bird Offer

I raised £537.50 this year when I did Race for Life. You can read about when I took part in Race for Life to see what it's all about if you've never done it. I plan to do it again next year and may well be taking up the early bird Race for Life offer to sign up now for £10 prior to the website opening again in January 2014. Go on, why don't you register too and help to raise £49,000,000.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Starting School. It's Emotional.

How did we get to this point so quickly? One minute she was like this:

The next like this:

I'm going to admit to not being a big fan of the baby stage but 12 months onwards is the best in my view! Isla didn't suffer too much from the terrible two's. We had a peak in bad behaviour about 2 months after Noah was born and after that there were some random outbursts but nothing regular. She's always been talkative and happy and social and I hope that these qualities will stand her in good stead for starting school tomorrow. Aargh school!! We've got the uniform, we've bought the shoes, she's been in to school for 1 hour with me by her side and now tomorrow she goes it alone. I feel scared and excited.

I'm excited about this new chapter but I also feel sad about my little girl getting bigger. Sometimes I say to her "I want you to stay little" and very adamantly she says "NO! I WANT TO BE BIGGER!". How ironic that lately I've been thinking myself how I'd love to turn back the hands of time. It's human nature to always want to be one step ahead, always wanting to be older, so you can be tall enough for rides at theme parks, old enough to see a 15 film, drive and drink. It's a shame as younger people we can't know that we should enjoy what's happening at the time.

I'm scared about the outside world having more influence on my baby. She has been at nursery since she was 9 months old for 2 days a week so she hasn't exactly been sheltered but we have been the ones predominantly responsible for her well being and education up till this point. I worry about whether she's emotionally mature enough for school. She'll be one of the younger ones in the year and that makes me want to protect her. 

I remember my school days at infant school to be very happy and carefree and I hope that Isla experiences the same as I did. Learning will be a new journey and one that I hope she enjoys and excels at in her own way. My heart kind of aches and tears well up when I think about it all too much and I know that tomorrow I won't be able to think straight. But I hope she comes home having enjoyed it and wanting to go back. 

Good luck my gorgeous girl. We love you so much!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Review of King of The Railway - The Movie & Our Visit to Thomasland

Last week we were invited to a special screening of King of the Railway, the new Thomas and Friends film at Thomasland! This was exciting news for the kids, especially Noah who in recent months has been building up a nice collection of trains from Thomas, he can play with trains (and cars) for hours. At the beginning of the summer we went on a Day Out with Thomas, which the kids both loved so I was sure they would have a great day.  In order to make it even more special I booked us a night in a Thomas themed room at Drayton Manor hotel - the kids were blown away.

So on the day of the screening we had a nice big breakfast and then hit the park, we were almost the first ones in. It was a beautiful sunny day - in fact I think it might be the last day we can call summer, now this autumn weather has taken hold. The rides weren't open yet, so we took a look at the animals in the zoo area first. The Meerkats were the clear favourites for my two, particularly as there was a baby one.

Thomasland is an area within Drayton Manor theme park. It is like stepping into the show when you get there. All Noah's favourite trains and characters were there in ride form! First up we went on Winston, he took us all round the park from the air, so we could check everything out and see what rides we wanted to go on next. And at this point, Isla saw the Cranky ride and very determinedly said "I want to go on that one Mummy". I looked at it and I didn't actually think twice, she was very adamant about going on. For those of you who know, Cranky is a crane so it was a ride that took you up and then down, and then up, then down, you get the picture. From the first zoom upwards, there were tears, oh dear, I even had my eyes closed hahaha. I must say now though, it wasn't related to her age, there were children younger than Isla on there who absolutely loved it!! Moral of the story, just check and double check that your little one really wants to go on it. If they still seem sure then don't feel too bad about the tears.....

From that point we went on loads of other rides and the kids really enjoyed everything, the only thing they wouldn't try was The Troublesome trucks rollercoaster. Then at 12pm we made our way to the 4D cinema in the park for the screening of the King of the Railway. We caught up with a few  bloggers that I know and also played with toys from the Thomas range. There were some really great bits, the Mega Bloks Thomas packs looked great and Noah had a good time playing with those, he mentioned Father Christmas afterwards! He's so cheeky! We were also welcomed by The Fat Controller, which was cool. 

We took our seats in the cinema with our popcorn and drinks and settled down for the film. It was great! And I have to say that was my first experience of a 4D cinema, really good fun was the verdict. Bit of a shock for the kids when the seats made their first move but that was all part of the experience. We had bubbles coming out at us, steam and at one point we got squirted full in the face with water (OH missed out on that as he was on the floor picking up all the grapes Isla had dropped!). The film tells the story of the return of the Earl of Sodor to the Island along with a very old steam train called Stephen. All the trains bustle round and take great interest in Stephen and the exciting surprises that the Earl has in store. When Stephen goes missing, Thomas and his friends look all over Sodor for him and there is a nail biting situation where everyone pulls together to prove how useful they really are. There are some really sweet moments in the film. I liked the relationship between Gordon and Spencer, always vying for the title of fastest train, and racing another all over the island. The way that Stephen is respected by all the younger trains is also lovely. There are also some songs in the film, that Noah really likes.

Isla loved the film, she didn't move a muscle from start to finish and being only an hour long, makes it a really great film to show little ones who may not be able to sit through a longer length film. Unfortunately all the running around that Noah did prior to the film meant that he conked out asleep! He saw the first 15 minutes and then it was game over. We rectified this on getting home as the kids got the most fabulous goody bag with a copy of the film on DVD. Noah has watched it loads of times since.  

After the film we went back out to Thomasland and Noah woke up, a bit upset that he'd missed the film but excited to go back and go on the rides. We thoroughly enjoyed our day out to Thomasland and watching King of the Railway. The kids slept all the way home and Isla hasn't stopped talking about the rides she went on that day, including Cranky, who she tells everyone was horrible! Hahahaha. 

The DVD of King of the Railway will be available from 1st September from all good retailers. I think it would make a great stocking filler for Christmas for Thomas obsessed children! 

Follow Thomas’ engine escapades on the Thomas & Friends website: 

You can also keep track of all the latest Thomas news on Facebook and Twitter

We were invited to Thomasland and to see King of the Railway free of charge. We paid for an overnight stay at Drayton Manor. The children each received a goody bag, filled with Thomas treats!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Medical Innovation Bill And What It Means To Me

When you're close to someone who has been diagnosed with a rare and terminal Cancer, like Myeloma, it can be very hard to watch them go through their treatment. I wrote about my Dad here, so I won't go into it again other than to say that he has been through a second lot of treatment, so that's two bouts of chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants in 4 years. It's a harsh treatment to go through and to witness. It takes months to complete and it takes months to recover from. Quality of life is not great to say the least.

For relatives and patients going through this it is really hard to see the wood for the trees. Life is in the specialists hands and you really tend to accept that their word is gospel, you believe in them to do their very best for you. Your energy levels are low and you or your nearest and dearest are fighting against the Cancer but you don't think to question whether enough is being done for you?

Well actually enough is not being done. We hear of progress and success in the treatment of some Cancers but the majority of Cancers do not have successful treatment rates and the methods of treatment are in a lot of cases 40 years old. The same practises have been used for so long, something that astounds me, apparently we're stuck in a rut with cancer treatment and new treatments are not forthcoming. The feeling in a lot cases is that people should accept the Status Quo - that is the patients and also the doctors.

So why aren't new treatments being introduced? Why aren't doctors being encouraged to innovate?

There is really one reason for this. The cost of litigation to the NHS has doubled in the past 4 years. Billions of Pounds are currently set aside from the public purse for compensation battles that the NHS feels it won't win. This burden has a knock on effect on the way Doctors work. They may well want to pioneer new treatments and try new methods but they're held back for fear of being sued. The fear of litigation and being called out as negligent is a real one and therefore they carry on with the Status Quo and follow standard procedures. Procedures that are actually archaic and medieval in their administration. The system is by nature 'anti-innovation' and because of that the same medical practises for Cancer treatment will be used over and over again. Einstein said that the definition of Insanity is the repetition of the same experiment over and over again and expecting different results. And that sums up the system for the treatment of cancer nicely.  

Things need to change and that's where the new Medical Innovation Bill comes in. Doctors need to be encourage to innovate. they need to encourage chance. Doctors need to be made to account for their actions, when they sit back and follow standard procedure. They need to be questioned as to why they are doing that and asked is that really the best course of action? If the Bill is to go through then Multi-disciplinary teams will have a chance to help patients. If one Doctor in the team suggests a new way of treating a patient then it's up to the other doctors to explain why that wouldn't be a good way and why standard procedure is the best way. It will encourage Doctors to feel like they can speak out and Doctors who don't will be challenged more.

It's important to point out that this Bill doesn't encourage recklessness. Patients and families undergoing treatment wouldn't be exposed to Mavericks who take risks. They would be part of the dialogue and they would be able to say whether they wanted to take new medications/ undergo different methods of surgical treatment. 

To me this Bill makes sense if it encourages Doctors to move away from always using the same treatments and explore new ones, that can only be a good thing for Cancer. New innovations are needed. I thank Maurice Saatchi for drafting this Bill. As someone who has a loved one with Cancer I thank him for using his influence and channelling his experience of the disease into creating this Bill and helping progress in Cancer treatment. The Bill won't cure Cancer, the Doctors will, but the Bill will give them the freedom to explore more pathways and achieve more in the field than is currently allowed within the law.

All Cancer deaths are wasted lives. Support the #SaatchiBill

Our Current 5 Favourite Books for Young Children

We got a few new books over the summer and some of them are pretty good for young children. Here are our top 5 recommendations:

The Bunny That Couldn't Be Found by Angela Mitchell

We love this one - it's a follow up to the book 'The Jelly That Wouldn't Wobble' with Princess Lolly as the main character. In this book she loses her precious 'Johnny Bunny' who rather than being a rabbit as you would presume, is actually a dog. The guards search the palace for her prized pet (a rabbit, or so they think!), all the while staring the puzzled dog in the face. Why are they calling his name but then ignoring him, he thinks? I love the illustration and the dog is the star of this book, with fabulous expressions on his face throughout.  

The Pet Itch by Elli Woollard

This is a bit of a silly one, but the kids love it. Mossy the Monster wants a pet Itch (no I have no idea what one of those is either!) and him and his sister concoct a way to get their family to let them have one. It is a proper story of how siblings gang up on and scheme against their family. Hmmm, who does that remind me of?

Things You Never Knew About Dinosaurs by Giles Paley-Phillips

We got given this book in our Britmums goodie bag and it's a good'un. The way it flows when you read it rather reminds me of Aliens in Underpants, which is one of our favourites too. We love Gile's books, they all have a small element of terror in them, this one is rather deceptive as I didn't think there was anything remotely scary in it until the last page. And just to say - it's not scary, scary, if you know what I mean. It's funny scary! 

A Royal Fairytale published by Egmont and based on the original storybook app by Ink Robin

I'd never heard of the app, so when we were given this book, also in our Britmums goody bag, I was new to it. I hadn't realised that there were children's books about the royal couple, but doh, of course there are - they are big news and products related to them sell well! It's a sweet book about Kate and William from childhood to meeting each other to getting married and having a baby. Prince George hadn't even been born yet when we first started reading this, so it's nice that the modern fairytale is now complete. I really love the illustrations, particularly the page with Westminster Abbey and it captures well the excitement of the nation over the royal wedding.

The Lonely Beast by Chris Judge - Me Books App on iOS

This one is great, it's on the iPad using the Me Books App (if you haven't got this app then GET IT) and both kids love it. The Lonely Beast is very rare (only 1 in every country of the world) and so feels alone. He sets off on a round the world trip over seas and mountains to find another beast. Our favourite bit is when he goes under the sea and gets his foot stuck in a clam. The artwork is gorgeous and the story is quirky. But the best bit about getting this book from Me Books is the voicing of the characters in the book - the beast has a great voice and the humour of the book is conveyed so well because of this. Check it out to see if the beast finds a friend.

We were sent/ given these books to review - all opinions are our own

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sponsored Video - Cuticura

When I was a little girl I spent quite a lot of my time upside down on my hands or twirling round the garden doing cartwheels. I couldn't think of anything more strenuous to do now! I now see Isla trying to do the same thing, at the moment, it's confined to going upside down on the sofa balancing on her head but soon enough she'll be bouncing across the garden on her hands like I used to do. Me and my friends used to play a game whereby once our legs were in the air the others would shout out an action and you had to do it with your legs, so they'd shout "scissors" and you'd have to do a scissor action with airborne legs, or "jelly" and you'd have to wobble them around. Doing this meant you had to stay upside down long enough to complete the task. I loved those days. There is something very carefree about handstands, for me they are definitely something that remind me of childhood and summer holidays. 

Now the couple in this video must have some super strong core muscles - they go on a date - walking on their hands the entire time. I mean it took all my strength when i was 10 to stay up for 5 seconds! Walking down a flight of stairs like these guys do takes serious training. As they walk round Brighton on their hands it struck me how many germs their hands must be coming in to contact with and that's where Cuticura comes in. Apparently one pump and your hands are protected for 8 hours, what a great way to keep your family's hands safe from germs all day, particularly when you may not be able to wash them with soap and water as frequently as you'd like.

Obviously we don't all walk around on our hands, but our hands are constantly coming into contact with bacteria and germs and as a family there are many situations where we're out for the day and hand washing isn't possible. We're planning some camping trips for next summer, Camp Bestival here we come, and I think it would be a good idea to keep Cuticura in our daypack when we're at the festival to protect against the nasties as festivals aren't particularly sanitary places! We also go on plenty of National Trust days out, another situation where there are no wash rooms in a woodland. 

It's alcohol free so totally kind to skin - a very important thing when using it on little hands that are constantly exploring. One bottle contains 100 squirts, so that'll cover a multitude of situations. If you want to find out more about Cuticura check out their website or facebook page

This post has been sponsored by Cuticura but all words are my own.

The Bedtime Police....

On Saturday night I made the mistake of saying to the kids that they could stay up to watch some of Strictly Come Dancing. It's not a mistake while it's on, it's actually fun. They like dancing and jumping around and I get to see my favourite programme. However it meant that they were going to bed just a bit later than normal and that means that bedtime was going to be difficult as they're more tired. 

As the programme finished a car's headlights flashed into the front room window and Isla saw them and said "who's that?". I don't really know how this happened but the words "Its the bedtime police, and they're driving round the street to check that all the children are in bed...." came out of my mouth. Where did that come from?! Anyway I decided to finish what I'd started and ushered them upstairs in the manner that they needed to get upstairs and into bed quick before the police knocked on our door. Next came a series of questions about the police. Ooops. I tried not to make it sound scary, just that they were doing checks (I almost believe my own lies sometimes!) but when Isla, who was now lying in bed asked if she could go to the toilet I told her to make it quick. She ran off to the loo, and whilst on the toilet, had a really concerned look on her face, every so often furtively staring down the stairs to make sure they weren't at the front door! She dashed back to bed, jumped in. Both of them settled down quite quickly and Saturday night for me was resumed with a glass of wine in hand and the X Factor. 

The following morning I'd decided that the police trick was going to be a one off (it was a bit mean!) and I told them that the police were so happy with their performance at bedtime, they were the best children in the street and they wouldn't be coming by our house for a long time!
Wot So Funee?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Sponsored Video - The Importance of Toilets #mumsfortoilets

We're on the toilet training journey again. I don't know if it's my memory failing me or if Isla really was as brilliant at getting the hang of dropping her drawers and having a wee or a poo. But things are a bit more of a slow burner with Noah and he definitely likes performing for his nursery key workers rather than us. He came home from nursery today with a T-shirt covered in stickers for using the potty - the reason being that we'd forgotten to take pull ups for him, so they put him in pants. 'Hey Presto', he's used the toilet all day without one single accident. 

Rewind 3 days to when we tried to do the same thing. Pants go on just after he's sat on the potty and squeezed out 2 tiny drops of wee. Tiny insignificant amounts. Really looked like he was trying too. Three minutes later and we have puddles rivers oceans all over the floor. Oh dear. I clean it up and decide that I won't put pants on now, I'll just leave him for a bit without them on and he'll go and use the potty. I'm not joking, another 5 minutes go by and we have another lake. I mean he hadn't even had loads to drink. He'd already done a wee to rival that of a baby elephant and yet he goes again! 

I decide enough is enough, and go to put on his pull up. But no he doesn't want it on. "I want to use potty Mummy". "But you're not using it Noah!". We wrestle with each other. Me getting one leg in a pull up, I just get the other one in, and he gets the first out. This goes on for a while until I WIN! I distract him and then he forgets the whole thing and I carry on disinfecting the floor. This is life right now for us. It's quite a different story for others, with fewer laughs and much more serious implications.

Some 2.5 billion people (37% of the global population) live without access to safe toilets. 2000 children a day die from Diarrhoea. That's a staggering figure to me. A situation that could be prevented by improved sanitation. Domestos and the Unilever foundation have partnered with UNICEF to improve access to sanitation by UNICEF's Community Approaches to Total Sanitation Programme. CATS is a programme to highlight the need for improvements in basic hygiene and raise awareness of the sanitation crisis so to stop the transmission of disease.

Check out this cute video of children passing on information to each other about the Domestos/ UNICEF programme. It shows how Chinese whispers work to a tee but you'll get the message!

Look for the specially marked Domestos bottles in the supermarket to help Unilever meet it's goal of helping 1 billion people take action to improve their health and sanitation. The CATS programme is in action in 50 countries worldwide, from Indonesia to India, to Ghana to Brazil, helping children to enjoy better lives.

Look here for more details of the campaign.

This post has been sponsored by Domestos, but all thoughts are our own

Monday, 2 September 2013

Walkers Mighty Lights - Review

We do love a crisp or two in this house so when we were offered some Walkers Mighty Lights to try we didn't think too hard before saying "Yes please"! We were sent a plentiful supply - 3 multi-packs in each of the 3 available flavours; roast chicken, cheese and onion and lightly salted. They arrived while I was at work, so being ravenous when I got home, I scoffed a packet of cheese and onion in 2 minutes flat! I thought they were pretty tasty, but I'm going to have to admit that they didn't touch the sides that first time! So of course I had to try them again, and again and again....

I thought they were were really tasty, they packed a good amount of flavour and crunch and were really fresh. I think a ridged crisp is generally crunchier and gives good texture. You can tell that the crisps have 30% less fat, they aren't greasy, have a drier texture - they go well with a cold beer I think - although that kind of undoes the benefits of less fat and all that good fibre!

The kids liked the lightly salted flavour, they weren't keen on the other flavours, but that's no reflection on the crisps themselves as they don't like flavoured crisps as a rule. I do like the way they tentatively try unknown crisps though - very lightly sticking their tongue on them to assess the flavour before accepting or rejecting them! I also am the luck owner of a licked crisp if they decide its a flavour they don't like! We took them on quite a few National Trust picnics and shared them out with other kids who also snaffled them quite quickly.

Now here are the facts! 

With 30% less fat than standard crisps, Mighty Lights are perfect for kids' lunchboxes. They are tasty, ridged crisps. All the flavours are suitable for vegetarians, and are available in shops nationwide. They're made from real potatoes with no artificial colours or preservatives -  and they're a source of fibre.

We didn't just eat the crisps on their own either, we used them to make a nice crunchy crumb on some homemade chicken nuggets. Now foolishly I didn't take any photos of these as they got scoffed before I remembered! But they are really easy to make and I'll be making them again like so:

Chicken Nugget Recipe:

Heat the oven to 190/ Gas mark 5

4 chicken breasts cut into chunks
1 heaped tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon of American mustard
2 bags of lightly salted Walkers Mighty Light crisps

- Mix the Mayonnaise and mustard together
- Coat all the chicken chunks in the mayo and mustard mixture
- Get the kids to bash up the bags of crisps with a rolling pin and then coat the chicken pieces in the crunched up crisps
- Pop in the oven for 12 - 15 minutes and turn halfway - should be lovely and golden when they come out

This one is great for involving the kids as they love bashing up the crisps!

We'll definitely be buying Walkers Mighty Lights again and with lunchboxes becoming a regular thing in our house with Isla starting school this September she might find them in her lunchbox occasionally.

If you want to check out the new Mighty Lights, take a look at 

This is a sponsored post